"I'm not going in there."
He rolled his eyes and cut the
engine, giving her as stern a look as he could manage under the circumstances. That girl should never, ever be allowed
to pout. She looks like Eminem would look if his teddy bear got stolen...provided that he even has a teddy bear. "Yes,
you are. You even dragged me to it, so you're definitely going."
"Remind me why I agreed to do this again?"
answer was deadpan. "Because he's your father and he loves you."
She snorted. "Yeah, well, he sure as shit doesn't
know how to show it anymore."
David groaned and closed his eyes as he leaned his head back into the smooth, cold leather
of the car seat. "Al, that's not fair, and you know it."
Alli turned to give him a pitifully imploring look. "Doc,
can we spare the moral discoveries and quirky Dawson's Creek epiphany attempts for a night?"
He smacked her
playfully, trying to get her to smile. "Don't even try to play it off. You love that show."
"I love Pacey," Alli corrected,
giving him a pointed look. She sighed melodramatically and fell against the window. "Why can't I get a Pacey? I asked
and asked, but all I ended up with was some stupid Dawson reject that thinks he's some sort of badass."
an eyebrow in her direction. "Yeah, and I got the melodramatic Joey who hates her family, befriends all male idiots, pisses
all the girls off, and whines and broods to add a little panache to the whole package."
Alli rolled her eyes. "I'm
only whiny and brood-y because I don't have a Pacey yet!"
David gave her a friendly, innocent grin. "Yeah, well, I
still think Dawson could be your Pacey."
Alli looked at him incredulously. "And I think you're freaking insane!"
point? Come on, Al, you never know. Love can pop up in the most mysterious of places sometimes..."
Alli gave a grunt
of frustration. "Like you're the fountain of wisdom. I swear, you talk to me for a few weeks and think you know everything.
You're like that damn professor guy that Joey liked, but things didn't work out with him. And, even now that things don't
work out, he's still doing things that piss her off..."
David frowned in concentration. "Didn't they try to have an
Alli glared at him menacingly. "That's beside the point. He's not her Pacey. I want my Pacey."
winked at her playfully. "Maybe I was your Pacey, and you let me get away."
Alli's eyes widened in mock horror. "Okay,
you know what? If you're Pacey, then I don't even want to know what Dawson looks like. As long as you're setting the standard,
the whole cast is going to suck major ass..."
David laughed. "Alli...you're stalling."
Alli smiled sweetly.
"Doc...you're catching on."
He chuckled. "So you'd rather sit out here and continue our conversation about Pacey and
"Fine then..." He allowed a pause before deepening his voice and wiggling his eyebrows.
"So, Al, if you haven't met your Pacey yet, does that mean you're still a virgin?"
Alli's eyes widened incredulously
before she narrowed them towards her offender. "You did NOT just ask me that. I know I left Nick on that tour bus somewhere.
There is no way that he managed to morph into you and..."
David laughed lightly. "I was
Alli rolled her eyes. "I would hope so. Considering who I'm talking to, that's a really, really stupid
David grinned. "So I was your Pacey?"
Alli made a face. "No, you were my head trip. I'm still trying
to find a decent Pacey." She scratched her chin thoughtfully. "I wouldn't exactly mind if he looked like Joshua Jackson either,
David's grin crumbled. "I think my ego just shattered."
Alli grinned and reached over to ruffle his
hair. "Then we can go inside, right? After all, Lord knows that Holly's ego is going to be enough to last throughout this
hell of a dinner."
David gave Alli a doubtful look. "She cannot be as bad as you say she is."
"Yeah, well, she's an attractive woman. You'll probably love her."
David shook his head. "Nah, I'm not that shallow.
If she's a bitch, I'll think she's a bitch. If you're just being bitter, though, I'll recognize that for what it's worth also."
voice was monotone as she delivered her reply. "No, stop, your faith in my judgment is overwhelming."
"Al, get out of the car and go ring the doorbell before they call the police."
Alli frowned. "Why would I stalk my
David was about to open his mouth when he recognized the signs of Alli stalling again and shot her a warning
"Sheesh! I'm going!"
David shook his head in amusement as her car door slammed, crawling out
of the driver's seat with a chuckle. "About damn time, girl."
"Alli? Is that you?"
David looked up in time to
see a tall blonde with long legs standing at the door in a black skirt and a flattering red sweater. The woman's long blonde
hair cascaded down her shoulders, and blue eyes peeked out from beneath perfectly plucked eyebrows. His own eyebrows rose
considerably. Okay, maybe Al isn't so far off in calling her Barbie... He glanced toward his friend just in time
to see her sheepish grin vanish.
The woman at the door offered a tentative smile as the two
approached her, and David was already uneasy with the tension between the two females. Her returned Holly's politely inquisitive
look with a small smile, and Alli sighed heavily.
"Oh, yeah. David, this is Holly. Holly, this is David."
smiled warmly at David and took his hand, shaking it with kindness. "It's so nice to meet you, David. You and Alli make a
David winced when he heard Alli clear her throat and mentally prepared himself for the remark that
was sure to follow.
"We're just friends," Alli muttered tightly. Holly blanched, but managed a sheepish smile in David's
"Oh, I'm sorry..."
Alli smiled sweetly at the older woman, and David's flinch grew to a grimace.
God, is she going to be like this all evening?
"Actually, Holly, David's my ex-boyfriend."
older woman looked even more sheepish at that, and frowned as
she cast her gaze to the floor. "Well, come on in. Dinner's almost ready, and your father is already waiting for you in the
den." She trailed off as Alli began to make her way through the halls, completely shattering any chance that Holly would've
had at a decent conversation with her. It was David's turn to smile apologetically.
"Listen, she's had kind of a rough
semester. She's not normally like that..."
Holly smiled appreciatively. "I'm sure she's not. She was very, very sweet
while her father was in the hospital."
David arched an eyebrow in disbelief, but Holly had vanished into the kitchen
before he could ask any more questions. With a sigh, he glanced over his shoulder and began to follow Alli to the den. He
could already hear the conversation between her and her father.
"So you brought David, did you? How is he?"
"And what about Nick? The three of you used to be such good friends..."
Alli's laugh was bitter as David
entered the den. "Yeah, well, things change and people become famous."
David grinned at his chance. "Yeah, but good
old Alli tanked out before she ever got to Hollywood."
Alli turned to smirk at him. "At least I'm not asking anyone
if they want fries with that."
"Yet," David finished, and the two laughed. When another, more hearty chuckle joined
them, David looked up and into the warm gray eyes of John Lacey.
He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd seen
the older man, but the kind look in his eyes hadn't changed over the years. Though he was molded into the wheelchair and much
thinner than he had been before, his homely nature was still prevalent. In three short strides, David crossed the room and
bent down to hug Alli's father.
"Mr. Lacey, it's good to see you."
John's eyes sparkled warmly as he beamed
up at Alli's ex-boyfriend. "Same to you, Mr. Rastrelli, but I think you know by now to call me John. How've you been, son?"
laughed. "Pretty good, actually. I've got an intern job in accounting, and I've been doing some business down in Tampa recently.
I live in Orlando right now, but they're looking to move me into the Tampa office and offer me a fulltime position once I
get my masters."
John looked impressed at the news. "Really? That's wonderful! It sounds like college has been good
David laughed. "I had a lot of fun, but I also managed to learn a thing or two."
Alli's false smile
surfaced. "Will the wonders never cease?"
John laughed at her before returning his gaze to David. "My girl hasn't changed
much, as you can see. She's still as sharp as she always was, and she's still got that mouth on her. She's pretty stubborn,
but I like to think that she'll be able to do something good for herself some day."
David grinned. "She tells me that
she's planning on becoming a student teacher next semester while she gets her own masters."
John rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Oh, she will be, once
she finds a school that likes to inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon their students..."
Alli's eyes widened incredulously.
"Ahem? She is still in the room, you know."
John smiled up at her. "Oh, believe me, Al, we know."
and gave her a pointed look. "You should just be glad we let you out of the cage tonight, Missy. Tomorrow you might not be
Alli's eyebrow arched. "Lucky enough to spend another night with you? Is it too early to start praying?"
she muttered sarcastically. David chuckled.
"Well, I supposed you could start now. I mean, I know I'm top company
Alli's sarcastic expression grew to a saccharine smile. "Oh, you thought I was going to pray to spend the
evening with you? You poor, poor thing..." she trailed off, shaking her head. "I was only praying for a bigger cage and a
box large enough for me to ship you back to Orlando."
Before David could get another word in edgewise, Holly's voice
rang out from the kitchen.
It wasn't lost on David that Alli's smile vanished at the sound
of Holly. He sighed heavily. Oh, yeah, it's going to be a long night.
He walked closer until he was directly
behind her and leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Would it kill you to be nice to her?"
Alli turned to give him a
pointed look. "She's tall, she's blonde, she was named after a freaking Christmas decoration, and she's dating my father.
What do you think?"
David shrugged. "I think it couldn't hurt."
Alli sighed melodramatically. "No, you were
right the first time; it could kill."
"Is lasagna all right with everyone?"
Alli rolled her eyes at the soft
soprano voice. She was moments away from another biting remark when David pinched her elbow and she flinched. "Yeah, lasagna's
Holly looked up and briefly smiled at Alli. "Your father said that you love Italian food."
believe everything you hear. "I guess so. He used to make it a lot when I was growing up."
John laughed. "Yes,
Al, but only because you and Nick were the only six-year-olds I knew that could finish an entire batch of ravioli by yourselves."
eyes blazed an angry gray at the mention of Nick. "Maybe so, but Nick doesn't eat ravioli anymore."
Holly looked up
with a small smile. "Oh? What does he eat now?"
Alli smiled in return. "Bacon for breakfast, hearts for lunch, and
sluts for dinner."
Not surprisingly, the room lapsed into an uncomfortable silence.
* * *
"Okay, you know what? Next time we go out to dinner, Al, we're going
alone. That really, really sucked."
Alli laughed lightly at the look on David's face. "That bad, huh?"
gave her a pointed look, but offered no verbal answer. Alli finally decided against making another comment and turned her
head to look out the window as the city rolled by.
Truth to tell, dinner had gone downhill from her comment about Nick's
appetite. Holly didn't understand Alli's warped sense of humor, and Alli didn't understand Holly's bland but polite nature.
To put it bluntly, neither of the two women liked the other, and the two men had spent the entire meal struggling to make
decent conversation. Alli rolled her eyes at the memory.
"She has no sense of humor."
David eyed her for a moment.
"Correction, Alli: she has no sense of sarcasm. She had plenty of a sense of humor. She laughed at my jokes, remember?"
groaned. "I repeat. She has no sense of humor."
David chuckled lightly. "I feel like I should be insulted."
snapped her fingers and smiled. "So that's why they're always telling you to go with your gut feeling!"
his eyes and sighed. "Do you always have to get the last word?"
Alli didn't waste a second before answering. "Yes."
for Alli, though, she hadn't been the one to get the last word that evening. Despite the disaster that dinner had been, her
father had insisted that she come with him to his office to talk while David and Holly got to know each other better. Alli
hadn't been keen on the idea of her ex-boyfriend swapping stories with the plastic replacement for her absent mother. However,
her love for her father had eventually won out, and she had left David in Holly's care to attempt to drag a bit of the father
she remembered out of his lovesick shell. She cringed at the memory of the conversation.
"Al, I just wanted to tell you how glad I am that you came tonight.
Holly told me that you wanted to spend more time with me, and I just wanted to apologize for being a little distant these
past few weeks."
Her jaw dropped, and she entered into one of the rare moments that she stumbled over her words. "Dad,
I totally understand. I mean...well, you were under the weather, and then there's Holly, and..."
His eyes rose to meet
hers, and everything she had planned to say went soaring out the open window. She cringed.
"Al, Holly really, really
likes you. She doesn't always understand sarcasm, so you'll have to give her awhile to adjust, but she said that she admires
your strength a lot."
Alli bit her lip hesitantly. "Dad, not to sound rude, but she doesn't even know me."
father smiled. "Actually, Al, she knows more than you think. Girl, we used to be a family with just the two of us, and so
she's heard quite a few stories about our adventures together." He sighed. "I'd like to think that we can still be a family,
Al. When Holly said that you had asked to stay for dinner, I was thrilled, because I really do miss having you around, and
I want that family back just as much as you do."
Speechless. She didn't dare try to say anything. There wasn't anything
she could say. She was too confused. Since when had she volunteered to eat dinner with Barbie?
"She said that you were
feeling like an intruder." He looked up and frowned lightly, revealing his paternal concern. "Al, you can't be an intruder.
You're my girl, first and foremost. This is your house as much as mine. Holly's only staying until I can get better."
you love her." The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, before she could realize that she didn't really
want to know the answer for fear that he would agree with her. Her heart constricted as he nodded.
"Yeah, I do. Lord
knows I didn't mean to, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?"
Alli was frozen. "Good intentions
led you to Mom," she mumbled, and her father began shaking his head immediately.
"Al, Holly is nothing like your mother.
Believe me." He winked at her. "I thank God every day that you aren't either."
Alli's laugh was bitter. "Yeah, me too."
smile faded to a serious expression, and he sighed. "I guess...I've just missed you, Al, and I'm glad that Holly being here
hasn't kept you away from me. I'm glad that things are working out between you. I'm glad that she's helping to bring us together
again instead of pushing us apart."
She cringed again. It really did kill her to know that he had things
so wrong. However, she was torn between the pain at her father's ignorance and her confusion at Holly's unmentioned kindness.
She knew the older woman didn't like her. She didn't much care for Holly either. Given the fact that they didn't like each
other, it seemed odd that Holly would choose to speak so highly of Alli to her father.
"What are you thinking so intently
about, and why isn't there smoke coming out of your ears yet?"
Alli laughed. "I fried all of my brain cells during
dinner. Don't tell me you didn't see it then..."
David winked. "Nah, I just thought you were ultra pissed."
grimaced. "Yeah, that too. I still don't get why Holly told Dad it was my idea, though."
David shrugged. "Maybe she
sees that she's wrecking the relationship between you and your father?"
Alli was staring into space again. "Maybe..."
continued to watch her for a moment out of the corner of his eye until he turned into the parking lot of her apartment complex.
"Uh, Al, we're here."
She looked up immediately and laughed. "Oh, thanks. Listen, Doc, I really appreciate you letting
me drag you to hell for tonight."
David wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Hey, if you really wanted to make up for
it, you could drag me to heaven too..."
Alli smiled sweetly at him. "Should I tell you off and play super feminist,
or just slam the door in your face?"
David grinned. "Definitely the door thing. Easier on the ears, you know?"
laughed. "Good night, David."
With that, he drove off into the night and she walked into the building
and up the stairs to her apartment. When she arrived, the message light was blinking rapidly, and she frowned with curiosity.
Who the hell would call me? Didn't I already talk to the girls today? She sighed heavily and pressed the red button
anyway, waiting for her caller to introduce himself/herself while she slid her coat off.
"Hey, Alli? Listen, I'm sure
you don't want to talk to me, but I can't leave things the way we left them last. Al, you're too good of a friend for us to
Good God, why the hell is he calling me? Doesn't he have a date with the bottle and the slut in the
bar downstairs? She silently reprimanded herself, but she deleted the message before she could listen to anymore. She
didn't want to hear from him. The night had been too long already.
"Al, it's Nick. Please call me? We need to talk..."
hit delete again. Maybe YOU need to talk...
"Al, where are you? Are you avoiding me? I wouldn't blame you,
but...damn, I'm due onstage. Listen, please give me a call."
"Alli? I need to..."
please pick up the phone..."
"Dammit, Alli, I just want to talk to you. Please, please call me back.
I'm begging, okay? You know me. You know that I never beg, so you should know how serious I am. I miss you, Al. I said it
first, too, so you know I'm not kidding. Call me."
Her finger shook as she reached for the delete button, but she couldn't
delete that last message. Something in his voice warned her that he really wasn't playing her for fool that time, and she
didn't want to let that feeling go. Instead, she glanced at the clock and sighed heavily.
She would sleep. Then, in
the morning, if she was still feeling generous, she might call Nick. As things stood, she had enough to deal with, but she
wasn't sure how much more she could take before she broke down and answered one of his calls. If anything, she'd get the closure
she wanted. If her Carter wasn't ever coming back, she'd have her chance to really say good-bye.
She heaved another
sigh and began her trek towards the bedroom.
"End of messages."